Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

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Fight brewing to lead the Nevada Republican Party

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald may have a fight on his hands for leader of the state GOP as a lobbyist for casino mogul Sheldon Adelson-- a billionaire Republican donor-- is exploring a run for the post.

Robert Uithoven, a long-time Nevada Republican operative, has just 10 days to cobble together enough votes from the state party's central committee to successfully oust McDonald. And he admits he just started the process of counting votes to see if it's even possible.

But if he finds a potential route to victory, Uithoven said he's in.

"I’m reaching out to Republicans to see, one, if this is a viable race and two, what kind of change do people want to see in the Nevada Republican Party," Uithoven said. "If it’s a change of leadership, I can speak to that. It isn't any one single person's fault, but what we've got now isn't working. We need to change that."

The Nevada Republican Party-- riven by divisions among Tea Partiers, Ron Paulers, establishment types and other factions-- has devolved into a struggling organization unable to compete with Democrats when it comes to voter registration and crafting a ground operation to help its candidates to victory. The situation became so bad in 2012, that major donors and the Republican National Committee shifted their focus from the state party to a so-called "shadow Republican Party" that constructed its own turn out operation.

Uithoven, who cut his teeth in Nevada politics as former Gov. Jim Gibbons' campaign manager and went on to manage former State Sen. Sue Lowden's failed bid for the U.S. Senate, has strong ties not only with Adelson, but other GOP donors. The state's elected officials, including Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, have also expressed an interest in turning around the state party apparatus. (It should be noted that Lowden, a former GOP chairwoman herself, recently held an event to support McDonald.)

Uithoven acknowledged that he's had multiple conversations with Republicans interested in rebuilding the party but declined to name them. He also said he wasn't recruited, but rather approached supporters who knew he'd had an interest in the position.

Uithoven said he has no interest in becoming involved in 2014 primary races or rewriting the party platform. His goal would be engineering a working party structure.

"I just know the party from when we were favored to win in almost every statewide race and we’ve taken several steps backward," Uithoven said. "I'd like to see us reverse that trend."

McDonald didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

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